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Archive for the tag “desserts”

Not like Mom’s: Authentic Belgian waffles, Waffalonia, Pittsburgh

"The Antwerp"

“The Antwerp” with speculoos ice cream, April 2014

I happen to be intrigued by almost everything about Belgium. Geographically, politically, and historically lodged between Holland (the country that introduced me to Europe) and France (the primary country that speaks the language that I study), Belgium is the intersection of Europe at which I feel most myself. The French accent seems softer here, and the humor, brighter. In Belgium, Lynn and I began our walk along the Western Front in 2010, and I had my first argument in full-blown French (avec “vous” et tout) with a bartender in 2007. Wine as the national beverage is traded for the beer that links me to my boyfriend, and the land smooths into long wide fields that carry me back to my family’s Pennsylvanian farm.

So of course I was going to love the authentic Belgian waffles Waffalonia (Oakland and Squirrel Hill, Pittsburgh), which serves up hearty, sweet waffles stunningly unlike those onto which my central Pennsylvania grandmother douses chicken and gravy. Instead, these Liège-style waffles are made from a yeast-driven dough and stuffed with imported sugar crystals that caramelize under heat.

It may be lost on many Pittsburghers that these waffles are named after Belgian cities and displayed on a menu that recalls a European railway schedule, but I used pass through Antwerp (here with speculoos ice cream and chocolate syrup) by train in 2007, and I was enchanted by the cobblestones streets of Bruges (here with strawberries and whipped cream) when I was fifteen.

Beyond the memories, the waffles are to die for. Pressed to order, the waffles are topped with fresh fruits, syrups, spreads, or locally-made Dave and Andy’s ice cream.

French student-approved

French student-approved, April 2014

Squirrel Hill
1707 Murray Ave
Pittsburgh, PA 15217
(412) 521-4902

4212 Forbes Avenue
Pittsburgh, PA 15260
(412) 685-4081

Friday Photo: Backstage pastry pass, Gaby et Jules, Pittsburgh

Chef Dimitri

Chef Dimitri, December 2013

On Wednesday, December 4, 2013, Gaby et Jules — a Parisian-style patisserie in Pittsburgh — hosted my French 1 class for a kitchen tour and chocolate demo.

Here, Chef Dimitri constructs a white chocolate bow using white chocolate ribbons, melted chocolate, and condensed air for a instant freeze.

Gaby et Jules
5837 Forbes Avenue
Pittsburgh, PA 15217
(412) 682-1966

Tuesday-Saturday: 8am-8pm
Sunday: 8am-5pm

Friday Photo: Morano Gelato, Hanover, New Hampshire


These whipped cloud-like mounds of gelato display the dessert’s luxuriousness. July 2013.

Being the daughter of a dairy farmer, I have an incredible weakness for dairy products, especially ice cream. However, even I admit that once you taste gelato, like that of Morano Gelato in Hanover, New Hampshire, there’s no turning back.

According to the Morano website, gelato differs from American ice cream in three main ways: gelato has a lower butterfat content (4-9% verses 14-25%), is less dense than traditional ice cream (20-30% air verses 50%), and is served at 10-15 degrees warmer than traditional ice cream is. These qualities allow gelato to pack an incredibly rich, creamy mouthfeel, so decadent that only a few spoonfuls are endlessly satisfying. No triple-decker cone is needed here.

Called “the best gelato in America” by Forbes magazine, the gelato at Morano is made fresh daily and sells out every evening. Come early to try out flavors like Almond, English Custard, or Dark Chocolate — which was too rich for even me — or to sample classic Italian espressos and sandwiches amid the boutique’s chic décor and outdoor seating.

57 South Main Street
Hanover, New Hampshire

Friday-Saturday, 11:00am-10pm
Tuesday-Thursday & Sunday, 11:00am-9:30pm

Hours change seasonally.

Cupcakes fit for spring, Dozen Bake Shop, Lawrenceville, Pittsburgh


Vanilla cupcake with passionfruit and coconut, Dozen Bake Shop, April 2013

I have a weakness for good cupcakes, especially those, like this one from Dozen Bake Shop, that taste like springtime and are made from scratch daily.

This moist vanilla cupcake with deliciously thick passionfruit icing was crowned with coconut for a not-to-sweet but altogether beautiful crunch.

Be sure to call ahead for the day’s flavors and read up on their “best bakery” praise in Pittsburgh City Paper, Pittsburgh Magazine, Forbes, and

Dozen Bake Shop
3511 Butler Street
Pittsburgh, PA 15201
(412) 683-2327

Fasnaughts and King Cake: Pre-Lenton Traditions in Central PA

Taking the Cake: Talange, France, January 2008

For us in south-central Pennsylvania, the day before Lent is known as Fasnaught Day, a tradition which we celebrate along with parts of Germany, Switzerland, and the Alsace region of France.  In times past, these traditional doughnuts were made to clear the kitchen of sugar and lard prior to the fasting season of Lent.

However, the Harrisburg area is getting a new pre-Lenton tradition, as reported in The Patriot-News on Wednesday, February 15: the king cake.  According to the article “King cake gets the Mardi Gras started,” this cake stems from a tradition imported straight from Louisiana.  It is oval; is often served in purple, green, and yellow frosting; and is embedded with a bean or plastic figurine to represent the baby Jesus sought after by the three kings, or magi, after his birth.  Traditionally, the person who was cut the slice with the figurine was crowned the king or queen for the day.

The Louisiana tradition is imported from an older one rooted in France, Belgium, and Spain.  I knew this cake in France as a galette des rois, sold pre-bagged with paper crowns from the Intermarche across the street and through a thin overgrown alleyway from the Lycee Gustave Eiffel in Talange where I lived.  When eating this cake, I felt that the term “cake” in the American sense was a misnomer; it’s more of a sweet brioche whose appeal lay in the possibility of becoming royalty for one moment.

I shared this cake with my friend Tobias on a cold hilarious night which involves us somehow acquiring two king cakes (note the two crowns) and wearing them both. Because of this, I’m skeptical of the central Pennsylvania version which is smeared with enough frosting to rival a coloring book — I remember this as a cake from simple times.  If the day before Lent is the season for indulgence, I’d rather use the king cake as an occasion for remembrance.

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